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Unstereotype Alliance Unearths Stark New Insights on How Race and Ethnicity Affects Women's Experiences in the UK

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Marks first UK Chapter anniversary with results of a landmark study exploring the lived experiences of UK women of ethnic heritage

The Unstereotype Alliance, a coalition of brands, agencies, and industry leaders working to tackle harmful stereotypes, through the power of advertising and media, today celebrates the first anniversary of their UK chapter.

The milestone was marked with an event at the Houses of Parliament at which Alliance members and allies met to review the progress made by the chapter in its first year. Convened by UN Women, the UK chapter is the largest in the alliance’s 9 national chapters with 24 members and 10 allies comprised of leading brands, agencies, industry bodies and media organisations. LinkedIn were announced as newly joining members, with industry body CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women) joining as an ally.

To mark the one-year anniversary, Unstereotype member UM revealed the results of a landmark study exploring the lived experiences of UK women of ethnic heritage, which is a priority area of work for the chapter. The survey, powered by Panelbase, was designed in partnership with Bloom in Colour, Creative Equals, Media for All, People Like Us, WACL and WIRe (Women in Research).

The nationwide survey interviewed 2,000 women in the UK with a priority focus on representing the experiences of women with Black African, Black Caribbean, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Southern Asian, and South-east Asian heritage, as well as White British women for comparison. The survey found:

- Women with minority ethnic heritage in the UK are more likely to look to brands and companies to make progress in tackling inequality and justice (71%) than the police (59%)

- Over 8 in 10 women with minority ethnic heritage believe that discrimination in the UK is widespread, with 63% agreeing that it is getting worse

- 10% of minority heritage women face sexual harassment at least weekly; 14% face physical or emotional bullying at least weekly

- Women with Middle Eastern and Black Caribbean heritage feel they are most negatively represented in ads, while women of Middle Eastern and Southern Asian heritage believed they had the least visibility in advertising

- 72% of women with minority ethnic heritage are likely to buy products or services from brands and companies who feature people of ethnicity in their advertising in a positive and authentic way

- YouTube and Television are the media channels believed to provide the greatest representation of ethnically diverse people

The Unstereotype Alliance alongside UM will soon unveil the full findings of the research including an analysis across heritage groups and intersectional findings, identifying the impact of class, disability, faith, parenthood, geographical region of the UK and sexual orientation in affecting women of ethnic heritage circumstances and opportunities. The survey underscores the pressing need of the chapter’s work and will inform the ongoing workstreams and key initiatives for the year ahead.

Claire Barnett, Executive Director of UN Women UK, commented: “The pandemic has exposed even more clearly the extent of the intersecting inequalities in our society, and the economic disadvantages that marginalised people face - in particular women of colour. If we are to build back better from COVID, none of us can afford to stay in our lane. Brands and private sector organisations have a huge role to play in eliminating harmful stereotypes from their own communications, as well as contributing to tackling prejudice in wider society."

Keith Weed, President of the Advertising Association and founding member of the Unstereotype Alliance, added: “The topline findings from the research tell a very concerning story. People’s ethnic heritage can come with baggage and labels that can hold women back. This can’t continue, it holds them and all of us back. However, how brands represent people and society in their advertising has been proven to make a difference and all brands can make a great impact by working with us to accelerate change.”

Rachel Forde, CEO of UM UK, commented: “At UM, we are completely committed to using the ability, influence and privilege we have as an agency to make a better and fairer world. 

Since 2017, we have focused our thought leadership on understanding stereotyping and prejudice in society – and the role of ads in tackling them. As a member of the Alliance, we are so proud to be able to support with this important new study. Thank you to all our amazing project partners.”

Darain Faraz, Director, Brand Marketing, LinkedIn, said: "We are proud to join the Unstereotype Alliance and work collectively to use the advertising industry as a force for good and remove harmful gender-based stereotypes. Together, we have the power to challenge perceptions and create advertising that truly reflects the society we live in today."

Julietta Dexter - Executive Board Member CEW UK Co-Founder & Chief Purpose & Growth Officer, said: “On behalf of CEW UK I am immensely proud that we are joining the Unstereotype Alliance. The beauty and wellbeing sectors have a huge role to play in this vital work and CEW UK will work closely with The Unstereotype Alliance to make real and positive change. The UK is one of the largest and most powerful beauty markets in the world and CEW UK, as the leading professional organisation for the business of beauty in the country has a pivotal role to play.”

Sallie Berkerey, Managing Director, CEW UK said: “As the Managing Director of CEW UK, I am delighted that we are joining the Unstereotype Alliance, UK Chapter. The UK is the fourth largest beauty and wellbeing market, globally, and CEW UK is part of a global membership organisation with 10,500 members who share a single passion - beauty. I am privileged to have a fantastic board comprised of some of the UK’s biggest advertisers, and together we want to make a difference by collaborating with our fellow UA allies and partners to deliver our shared goals.”

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